In mid April, 1862, with little effort, Union forces of the 101st Regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers took Plymouth, North Carolina. Battles of varying intensity had been cooked through North Carolina – Goldsboro, Fairfield, Hyde County, Blounts Creek, Nichol's Mills, Gardner's Ridge, and Williamston. The battles succeeded over each village became ones of achieving sacrifices, since the self-adequacy of each promised multiple spoils – theors for the taking. By late that month, the Union thoroughly controlled the coast of North Carolina from the Virginia border to the White Oak River. Occupation forces remained in coastal North Carolina at such locations as Roanoke Island, Plymouth, New Bern, and Beaufort.
“This is life in the military as it should be,” the Union troops might well have thought as they marched in parade formation down Washington Street in Plymouth, their band instruments no doubt playing such tunes as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” They had been given new uniforms complete with fancy hats that reminded those who saw them of pilgrim hats. Most were looking forward to impressing the folks back home when they returned by train, victorious.
But a mere two years later, after the aforementioned small skirmishes, the tide had suddenly turned for the troops of the 101st, soon to be known as the “Plymouth Pilgrims”. Most were captured and sent to the infamous prisoner of war camp in Andersonville, Georgia.
Upon entering this graveyard of hell, the soldiers would have seen 16 acres of hilly terrain, encompassed by eighteen feet high walls of hewn pine logs. A small stream, Stockade Creek, a branch of Sweetwater, ran through the yard and served as a toilet as well as a laundry. No buildings were constructed to provide shelter – lean-to's made from stolen blankets and clothing provided the only shelter in this darkness of despair for those balancing, then slipping off the tight-rope of life.
For days on end, life at Andersonville must have appeared as one brutally long day, the obvious and constant reminders never letting the prisoners forget how uncertain life is. Lacking warm blankets, many died who might have been saved by one good hot drink or a few mouthfuls of nourishing food. The constant visions of life flipping over to death doubtlessly occupied the prisoners' daily lives as death slept all around them.
A marked-off dead line bordered the interior outline of the stockade's interior. It was set for those who might try to escape. For some, comfort would only come with death, and so the dead line was their answer. Some intentionally crossed the line, in full view of the watchful guards which weapons were at the ready.
The future was never realized for the bright youth and loyal men in the caged interior-this was the awful penalty of Andersonville's enclosure. Life, with its nightmarish visions, is often not painted as we would like to see it, so the visions remembered by the few who lived through the hellish nightmare remained. For them, the confines of Andersonville clung stubbornly within their minds until the day they died.